Willie: Yesterday and Today

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Willie started his life in the “Windy City” born into a middle-class family. His life changed when he was a teen when his parents separated. That is when his difficulties in school began. Willie had a learning disability and did not graduate from high school. When his mother, a nurse, passed away, not only did he become involved with drugs, but his siblings eventually all went their separate ways. Willie ultimately became homeless.

 

And so, a cycle of homelessness and drugs had begun. Willie married and became a father to two girls. Due to drinking and drugs, he left Chicago in 1991 and came to California to live with an aunt. Although he received Social Security due to his disability, he found it necessary to commit petty theft in order to eat and pay his way. Finally, he entered the criminal justice system. A skill he learned in prison was landscaping, which he still loves.

 

When he got out of prison, he avoided his old friends and associates and went into reentry housing. However, he found the conditions at the home unbearable, and again, he became homeless. In 1994, Willie came to COA for hot meals and was soon hired to work in the dining room, unload trucks, and do janitorial tasks. He also began working at the Queen Mary as a parking attendant. COA located housing for him, but after being homeless and in prison for so many years, it was difficult for him to be around groups of people.

 

When the Queen Mary learned he had been in prison, they let him go. He again lost his housing.

 

Finally, Willie became employed at a Church and started speaking to community groups such as lawyers and police officers letting them know what it is like to reenter society after serving time.

 

He now has his own single apartment. His message is, “We all do the "best" we can to serve Jesus.”

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